The Daily Habit

Until recently, I was on the fence on the ‘write every day’ issue because I’m a firm believer that every writer has his/her own, unique way of writing and so no-one can tell another writer how and when to write. Also, I wasn’t sure if it worked for me. I’d tried it in the past, expecting it to get easier as I continued, but it didn’t and so I always ended up giving up. Turns out, I never gave it enough time.

According to research conducted by Phillippa Lally and colleagues from University College London in 2009, it takes, on average, 66 days to form a new habit. (Read more about this, here.) That’s two NaNoWriMos and then some. I don’t know about you but one NaNoWriMo is enough to make we want to take a long holiday. Completely drains me. So maybe NaNoWriMo is not the way to start a daily writing habit because the daily word count is too high to start on – you need to work your way up. Start small.

Which is exactly what I’m doing at the moment. Instead of NaNoWriMo, I’ve decided to simply ‘show up’ every day. That’s it. Just start. And usually, I keep going until I feel I’ve made some progress and am on a bit of a roll, when I stop to make it easier to start the next day. So far, it’s working for me. And what is more, I am sure it will work for you. For every writer. Why? Because of C Hope Clark’s blog post, Daily vs. When the Feeling Strikes.

Her point is that by making writing a daily habit, you make it easier for yourself to write, and uses three examples to demonstrate this: the bedtime routine, which helps children settle down and get to sleep; the difficulty of returning to work after a holiday; and the confusion of returning to a book you’ve not read for a while. She concludes with the following:

Not writing daily is a two-step-forward and one-step-back situation. But if you just take, say, fifteen minutes to write each and every day, you do less back stepping, you gain more ground, and you keep moving forward with a firmer mission.

Writing is hard enough, so why make it any harder? By turning it into a habit, you make it automatic, and remove the obstacles to starting. Well, that’s the theory, anyway. As to whether or not that’s true, we’ll have to wait and see, but I do find it easier to start, having worked on the novel the day before. You know where you are, that way, and it takes seconds to get back into it. Making myself open the document is still difficult, and every day I’m tempted to just not. To skip that day. Hopefully, by keeping at it and writing every day, that temptation will cease to exist and opening the document will become a habit – something automatic – maybe even something that’s hard not to do. Like I said, we’ll have to wait and see if that happens. I’ll report back in 66 days.

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